In House of Cards Season 5, one subplot that left some viewers confused was the bomb scare in Chapter 59, which Frank Underwood refers to as an attempted coup. What exactly happened here? In what way was there an attempted coup?
In Chapter 59, Frank and Claire Underwood are brought to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center because a truck carrying three cesium-137 irradiators missed two checkpoints. The truck’s GPS went offline and the driver had become unreachable; the concern then becomes that the truck might be heading to Washington, D.C. with the intention of setting off a dirty bomb.
Claire Underwood observes that she isn’t sure what’s worse: the possibility of a dirty bomb going off or what would happen to the city if they found out about it. General Braegher throughout the episode pushes for a full evacuation of Washington, which Frank Underwood keeps resisting. We soon learn that Braegher is a friend of General Brockhart, Will Conway’s running mate in the election.
Later in the episode, the truck is found parked in a medical device factory, and it turns out ICO had nothing to do with this.
We then learn that General Braegher staged this truck threat, or at least highly exaggerated a non-threat, in order to keep the Underwoods underground and help the Will Conway campaign. This would keep the Underwoods off the campaign trail for a day, and it could also make the Underwood administration look weak on terror, unable to protect citizens from an ICO attack.
Frank Underwood in the episode meets with General Morrison, who was not underground during the attack, and it’s implied that she knew about this plan and decided to stay out of it. This is why she was in her office during the bomb scare and not in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.
Towards the end of the episode, General Braegher essentially admits that he concocted this whole scheme, telling Claire Underwood, “You don’t deserve to be in the White House.”
This is what Frank Underwood meant when he said that what happened was an attempted coup: at least one general actively conspired to get the president removed from office, manufacturing a terrorist scare in order to benefit the president’s opponent in the election.